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What’s the Difference Between a Grocery Store and a Supermarket?

By Ferdi Vol
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Grocery stores and supermarkets almost seem like the same thing superficially. But they are kind of different considering the way they work and the services they provide. If you are curious about, what’s the difference between a grocery store and a supermarket, then you are at the right place.

Basically, a grocery store is a smaller and more specialised shop that sells food. On the other hand, a supermarket sells an assortment of goods, from food to specific household items. 

Other than this basic difference, there are more differences which distinguish a grocery store from a supermarket. To properly grasp what makes a grocery store different to a supermarket, I highly suggest you read on. 

What’s the Difference Between a Grocery Store and a Supermarket? 

The key difference between grocery stores and supermarkets is in the size and products sold. Supermarkets are larger and offer a lot of options for the customer. You can find ten different types of jelly and jam in a supermarket. 

Grocery stores on the other hand are smaller in size and come with limited options. But the grocery store is specialised. It targets a specific demographic or locality. 

For example, you can find a vegan grocery store or an Indian grocery store. Whereas in a supermarket, you might get vegan or Indian options along with the normal ones. But there is a higher chance of you getting a rare or certain product in a specialised grocery store than the supermarket. 

Moreover, you can spend 30 minutes deciding on what sauce to get on the condiments aisle. But in the grocery store, you will not spend as much time deciding what to get. 

Coming back to the size of stores, a supermarket is part of a chain of stores under the same parent company. A grocery store is privately owned and can have a few sublets. 

There is also a difference in price between grocery stores and supermarkets. You will notice that the same product costs more in a grocery store than in a supermarket. This is because grocery stores mark up the prices of their products to make up for low foot traffic.

Both grocery stores and supermarkets depend on their large inventory to make money. But supermarkets have a larger inventory of items than grocery stores. Their inventory is so large, that they need to host frequent sales to get rid of out of season or excess items. 

Grocery stores and supermarkets also differ on how they present and manage their products.

You will only find food products divided into sections placed in different aisles. You will also find different aisles for produce, meat, dairy, bakery and deli in a grocery store. This way they can make the best use of their small and confined space so that they can have more products of shelves and keep them well organized and easy to find.

On the other hand, you will find an in-house butcher, floral department, pet foods section, cleaning supplies, pharmacy and much more inside a supermarket. They make use of their large space and can afford to divide their market place into individual departments. This not only makes finding goods much easier but also people are able to buy fresher items as well.      

Purpose of a Grocery Store and a Supermarket

 The purpose of a grocery store is to retail varied range food products, fresh or packaged in one place. That is, you will only find grocery in the grocery store. 

 In contrast, a supermarket’s purpose is not food solely. Its purpose is to provide everyday products from food to flowers under one roof.

 Convenient and efficient shopping is the main purpose of supermarkets. People usually do not want to make too many stops for getting daily household products. You don’t have to stop by the pharmacy or the farmer’s market if you shop at the supermarket. 

Again, you can get vegan to ethnic food items in the supermarket. Whereas in the grocery store, you will get the bare minimum or specialised food items depending on the target demographic of the grocery store. 

Moreover, shoppers like to shop within a budget. The frequent sales and affordable prices at the supermarket allow shoppers to shop within the budget. 

Is Walmart a Grocery store or Supermarket?

Walmart is neither a supermarket nor a grocery store. The largeness and wide ranges of products in Walmart would make you think it is a supermarket. But no, it is a superstore.

Most shops we go to are either a supermarket or a superstore. The difference between the two is that a superstore is larger. Some superstores look like warehouses. 

Again, a superstore has more retail chains than supermarkets. Walmart has hundreds of retail chains all over the world. 

A supermarket will have different departments of food and beverages. It will also sell products such as pet food, cleaning supplies, health and beauty care products. Basically, you will find most products sold at superstores in supermarkets. 

But a supermarket will not consist of a clothing department. Whereas, a superstore consists of home décor, clothing, electronics, cleaning and gardening supply sections. Walmart is a superstore because it retails all these products and more.

Benefits of Shopping at Supermarkets

Whether you say grocery store and supermarkets interchangeably in conversations does not matter. But there are perks of knowing what distinguishes a grocery store from a supermarket. 

You can earn credit card bonuses if you use your card at specific food stores. For example, if you purchase from a supermarket using American Express, you will win bonuses. You will not receive this bonus if you purchase from a grocery store or a superstore. Here are a few supermarkets from which you can avail the American express bonus, 

  • ShopRite
  • Stop and Shop
  • Meijer 
  • Whole Foods 
  • Gristedes
  • Foodtown

Again, some credit cards like Capital One Card and Bank of America card rewards purchases from both supermarkets and grocery stores on certain categories such as, 

  • Dairy Product stores 
  • Supermarkets 
  • Meat Lockers
  • Freezers
  • Bakeries
  • Candy or Nut Confection Stores 
  • Other Specialised food stores 

Aldo, Costco, Walmart are often called grocery stores. But since these are technically superstores, hence these bonuses do not apply to these stores. 

Another benefit of buying at supermarkets that we mentioned before is buying fresh items. Grocery stores usually being small don’t have people manning each item liked you’d have in supermarkets. In supermarkets you can find a butcher to fix you a freshly cut piece straight from the freezer, a florist to find a fresh flower, and a pharmacist to provide you both over the counter and prescription medicine.

As a result, you can find fresh items alongside packaged ones in supermarkets. This is great for people who prefer fresh products instead of packaged and preserved goods. And there is no shortage of people who want that. In grocery stores, that is not the case. You are generally stuck with packaged, preserved and canned goods.

So, if you got a credit card and looking for fresh grocery then going to a supermarket would be the best choice.

The difference between a grocery store and a supermarket is as subtle as the difference between supper and dinner. So, whether you go to the supermarket or grocery store, you will still say, “I’m going grocery shopping.” 

You can never tell what piece of information can come in handy someday. Knowing the difference between different food stores, may not help you in daily conversations. But it will ensure you get them getting credit card rewards. So, I hope after reading this article you know what’s the difference between a grocery store and supermarket now.

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About the Grocery Store Academy
The Grocery Store Academy is a blog about everything that has to do with grocery stores. This is your #1 spot to find the right information for your needs.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol has worked several years in a grocery store and has a passion for good food. He's happy to share his passion with you!
About Ferdi Vol
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